Let's Talk About It


The failure of Prof. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala,Nigeria’s nominee, to win the presidency of the World Bank this year, is a major diplomatic flop.

There may be many who now rationalize that the effort byNigeriato rattle the monolithic and monopolistic stance of theUnited States of Americaand her running dog, Europe, was worth the while.

For all of the nearly half a century of the existence of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, IMF, the two blocs have retained their headship. TheU.S.has kept the World Bank leadership whileWestern Europehas always produced the Managing Director of IMF.

The two major democratic economies are also reported to own a 54 percent shareholding of the World Bank.

Our own dear Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, says she’s been in the World Bank/IMF system for 20 years during which she traversed the world and held important posts and positions. She therefore knows the organizations inside out.

When she agreed to run for the Presidency of the World Bank, she received the support of President Goodluck Jonathan and thus becameNigeria’s nominee.

African Union, AU, countries and the so-called emerging market countries were said to be backing Okonjo-Iweala.

Colombia, one of the South American countries presented her  Finance Minister Dr. Jose Antonio Ocampo, to join the fray, along with Okonjo-Iweala andU.S.  President Obama’s nominee, Korean – American Dr. Jim Yong Kim, in the quest for the succession of  the current incumbent, Robert Zoellick of U.S. whose five-year tenure ends in June.

The endorsement of the candidature of Okonjo-Iweala by President Jonathan, would have under normal circumstances, bestirred the diplomatic community ofNigeriainto action.

To begin with, right from last year, when a new selection process was agreed upon for the election of future Presidents of the World Bank ,          andAbujahad in mind to vie for the position, a government, grounded in modern day diplomacy, would have moved fast enough to secure the backing ofWashington.

Jonathan, with the help of theU.S.envoy inNigeria, would have sought an audience with hisU.S.counterpart to inform him ofNigeria’s ambition.

If Obama says “ok”, he would certainly not put forward a nominee.

If theU.S.told us “no” from the beginning, it would then be foolish to dare them in a most quixotic manner.

Pulling appropriate diplomatic strings would have enabled us to know what the relevant interests had in mind.

Nigeriahas come of age and ought never again find herself in such a diplomatic debacle.

A new system was adopted in 2011 to allow for greater openness and multiple nominees “where any national of the Bank’s membership could be proposed by any Executive Director or Governor.”

Interviews of the candidates were to be conducted by the Executive Directors who would then make a final selection.

Now, doesNigeriaknow the  membership and composition of the World Bank’s Executive Directorship?

How many of them were actually approached to showcase Okonjo-Iweala’s credentials?

Were we just testing the waters to find out the level of impregnability of the American/European dominance of the Breton Woods oligarchy?

Was our Okonjo-Iweala being used as cat’s paw by the emerging markets to shakeWashingtonandBrussels?

Or did we really believe that we, or any other third world nation, would have overthrownAmericawhen she nominated a candidate?

With all her academic and experiential arsenal, it would seem Okonjo-Iweala was quite innocent of the vicious dog-eat-dog diplomacy that goes on when a top job as she aspired to, becomes available on the world scene.

She can be excused and pardoned for such naivety.

ButNigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister and his overflowing supply of diplomats, both career and non-career, have no reason to give the country for such a shoddy diplomatic outing.

When the Finance Minister of Colombia got  a hint of what was about to happen, he quickly withdrew from the race and announced his support for Okonjo-Iweala, barely hours to the announcement of the decision to let Obama’s man replace Zoellick.

What a Greek gift of a support!

Through vibrant diplomatic channels, clever Prof. Ocampo realized that the game was up for himself and Okonjo-Iweala.

He merely humouredNigeriaby the 11th  hour withdrawal and support forNigeria.


If we had real diplomats on ground, Okonjo-Iweala would have also been advised or encouraged to pull out and thus saved our face.

My worry began a few days back during her campaigns when Okonjo-Iweala  told the world that she was the best candidate, obviously relying on her intimidating credentials garnered from the Ivy League and from the World Bank/IMF itself.

She exposed her total disdain for the diplomatic side of the selection process.

Even the national media swallowed the bait and dwelt so much on the need for a qualified economist to pick up the prize from a field in which a medical person was already a favourite.

Our diplomacy has to be shaken up.

We are not doing too well in that area of international relations.

About the author

Christian Voice